Daily Archives: September 24, 2012
Before I pass – in the very next days – to the exam of how the latest invention of the German bishops is NOT what the Vatican said in 2006 (besides being obviously simoniacal), I would like to say two words about the role I think the Vatican has played in the matter.
In the only contribution I have read which gave a precise description of the Vatican position on the German decree, the verb used was that the Vatican has “rekognosziert” the decree.
Now, “rekognoszieren” is a word which in German can be placidly called non-existent in the usual sense of the word, though you will find it in the vocabulary. There are, though, the vastly more spread Italian verb “riconoscere”, and Latin verb “recognoscere”, which are, as I understand them, somewhat complicated words.
Let us say that I understand that the Communist Chinese government is the authority holding sway over the land. I “acknowledge” that they are in power, and deal with it accordingly. I will have an embassy, for example, and give the head of state the honours of the head of state when he comes to visit. I am simply recognising a reality, a fact of life.
I will also call the Archbishop of Canterbury “Your Grace”, because even if he is clearly a layman without holy orders, I recognise the fact that the English Government considers him to be an Archbishop. Of course he isn’t; but again, of course he is.
Now, this does not mean that I approve the Communist Chinese government; nor does this mean that I consider the Archbishop of Canterbury a real archbishop. Very simply, they are there and I deal with it, recognising a reality already in place.
Now, it is to me rather peculiar that the Vatican was not said to, say, “approve” (Zustimmen), or even the in my Italian eyes somewhat less explicit Anerkennen the German decree, but merely to “rekognoszieren” it. It seems to me a linguistic gymnastic which can only have one meaning: the Vatican does not give an official seal of approval, but merely recognises that this is the interpretation of the German bishops.
Of course, this is the usual Benedict-style, “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds” attitude, and its aim seems to be to bend over backwards to allow – or let us say it Vatican style: not disallow – the German Bishops to maintain that their take is at least not in contradiction with Church teaching, whilst at the same time avoiding the unspeakable simoniacal shame of declaring urbi et orbi that the Church feels free to give sacraments only against fixed money payments in a measure decided by themselves.
My understanding of what has happened is therefore – and until I manage to know more about the matter – that the Vatican is saying something on the lines of: “well, it’s complicated; I have given guidelines in 2006 which repeat what I understand as an Austritt (exit) which would justify an excommunication; but you have now put a certain interpretation on it and I recognise as a fact, acknowledge the reality that this is the way you German Bishops see things”.
It can’t be denied that the Bishops’ decree is in striking contrast to the Vatican instructions (themselves not a novelty; mere Catholic sense) given to the very same German bishops in 2006 (and object of the next blog post, hopefully).
My impression is that the Holy Father – whom we know was personally involved in this decree – wanted a formula allowing him to let them free to go on as they wished ( = ka-ching) but without appearing to approve of their position as they would have wanted.
The result was, methinks, this neither meat nor fish decision, and this strange, factually unused verb “rekognoszieren”.
Following my blog post some days ago about the extremely interesting blog Ars Orandi, I would like to make some observations – perhaps controversial, perhaps not – about the way my poor lights understand the actuosa participatio.
We all agree if one sits on the pew thinking of the afternoon’s football match you he is way short of the mark. We also all agree one should try to participate to Mass according to his own ability. But after reading the very interesting considerations of the author of the above mentioned blog, I could not avoid reasoning that in times past (pre Second Vatican Disaster) there were a lot of not so well-educated people who insisted in praying their rosary or their devotion during Mass rather than, as S. Pius X so beautifully puts it, “praying the Mass”. I know that this is the case from what I have heard in my family of what happened in past decades, and for having seen “church scenes” on several occasions in Italian films of the past.
There can be no doubt – I think – the ideal form of following the Mass is the already mentioned “praying the Mass” so beautifully encouraged by Pope St. Pius X. Still, it is a fact several decades later many members of the (oh, blast the political correctness…) working class still preferred the method of praying their own prayers during Mass, at least in Italy.
The latter way was, as a modern business consultant would put it, sub-optimal. But I wonder: was that not actuosa partecipatio, too? Could it be that the lady telling her beads was not also following – in a more generic way – what was happening at Mass? Could it that she missed the fundamental structure of the Mass, did not know when the Consecration was, and did not have at least an inkling of what was happening on the altar as she prayed? I think we can safely exclude it (for example, try to overlook the dramatic spiritual intensity of the Consecration in a Traditional Mass, if you can…).
Fast forward to the present times, when the wonderful reforms of the Second Vatican Castration force us to repeat many times what the priest has just said as if we were in kindergarten. Is this participatio more actuosa than the one of the old woman once going through he rosary beads; or does it tend to become rather a mechanical repetition of a ceremony not really lived in its spiritual intensity (much diminished in the Novus Ordo anyway), and not understood in its supernatural significance?
Mind: the old semi-illiterate woman telling her beads did not have any doubt about the significance of the Consecration whilst the Novus Ordo pewsitters, who are considered unable to even listen to a Psalm without repeatedly parroting one line, seem to struggle massively with the concept.
If we reflect on these and other examples (does the frantic hand-shaking help to stay near Christ? Or does it lead us away from Him, plunging us in the “community” dimension?), we must agree that actuosa participatio must not be defined within the limits of what is physically “done” at Mass in response to of accompaniment of the Priest’s doing, but must be extended at the way the pewsitter – and be he as uneducated as you like, and uncomfortable with anything other than his rosary- is “with it” as the Mass happens, fully aware of what is happening if very probably unaware of the minutiae of the procedure.
Of course, the priest’s attention in saying the black and doing the red must be, I think, obsessive. But this is in order for the priest to be able to forget himself as he celebrates the Mass and take every personalised or ego-driven aspect out of it. As in every kind of formal procedure – take the famous “Zen tea ceremony” – the celebrant forgets himself as he strictly follows a complex procedure not leaving him any space for ego-digressions, which is the reason why such kind of strictly regulated procedures – even outside of Christianity – never fail to attract the admired approval of the public.
But must the pewsitter be a parrot of the priest? Must he try to become another Zen master of ceremonies? Of course, the nearer he can follow the Mass, the better; but failing that, isn’t the old peasant saying her beads vastly better in her participation to mass than the modern crowds even – I have seen it many times – playing or drawing with their little children on the pews? Pray, what kind of “participation” is this? And why is such a kind of participation nowadays almost universally approved of, whilst the old woman saying her beads was suddenly not good enough?
Therefore my conclusion is: let the translated missals be distributed and used as widely as possible, and let us encourage everyone to “pray the Mass” as closely as they can. But let us put in the centre the actual understanding of the supernatural function of the Mass, and let us allow those who are not educated enough to feel comfortable with the strict following of the Mass to follow the Mass in their own prayerful and devout way.
It is the priest who must “say the black and do the red”, not the pewsitter.